Category Archives: Vida Latina

Mexican and Latin American art, culture, language, history, music, food, festivals

The Mexican Presidential Debate 2012

The Mexican Presidential Candidates 2012

Mexico, with its wealth of natural resources, its geographic position, and a young hard-working population should be among the wealthiest nations on the planet. However the population of 113,000,000 is mired in an endless circle of violence, corruption and inequality. Since 1810 when it fought for independence from Spain, Mexico has been bogged down by (to be charitable) ineffective leadership. The 2012presidential election is an extremely important one.

Last night, June 10th, we watched the second and final debate of the four candidates in the Mexican presidential race. The election will be held on Sunday July 1st. The candidates are:

  • Enrique Pena Nieto: PRI
  • Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador: PRD
  • Josefina Vazquez Mota: PAN
  • Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance party.

Most polls show the New Alliance’s Gabriel Quadri is in fourth place; the PAN’s Vazquez Mota is in third place; Lopez    Obrador of the PRD is in second place; and the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto in first place.

All of the candidates have negative associations that the others play up.

Enrique Peña Nieto is the candidate for the party that held the presidency in Mexico for 70+ years. The PRI ruled the country with a combination of benevolence and iron fist tactics. The Mexican people are nervous of a return of the old regimen.

Nonetheless, they seem to prefer even this over another term with the PAN administration in the driver’s seat. This party ousted the PRI in 2000 and both their presidents have ended their 6 year terms with low approval ratings. Josefina Vazquez Mota the PAN candidate touts herself as “different” which many see as a weak position for the incumbent party to take.

Meanwhile the PRD’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador carries the stigma of being a hot-headed rabble rouser following his behavior after the last presidential election in 2006. At that time he maintained that the election had been stolen from him by means of the electoral fraud. Many believe the accusation to be true.

Finally Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance presents an interesting platform but his party is simply not well known enough to be a serious contender.

The “debate” was more of an opportunity for each candidate to present their opinions and in some cases, dish the others:

  • The PAN candidate spent a good part of her allotted time accusing the other candidates of evil deeds. They pretty much defended their positions with solid counter opinions.
  • The PRI candidates tried to underscore the negative effect that the student movement (#Yo Soy 132) is having   on his campaign.
  • The PRD candidate stressed the social responsibility that is characteristic of his party and downplayed the notion that he would be the next Hugo Chavez.
  • The New Alliance urged the Mexican voters to rid their country of past policies that did not work and vote in a new option.

How will the Mexican electorate vote? Traditionally, they show amazing courage and conviction when they are under stress. Whatever the results determine on July 1st, the entire population needs to stand squarely behind the elected candidate. Pulling together is paramount if the country is to shake itself out of the negativity of the past.

* All photos are from Google Images. The top one shows the four candidates. The single shots  (in order of appearance) are of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (PRD), Josefina Vasquez Mota (PAN), Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI) and Gabriel Quadri (New Alliance)


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La Vulcanizadora

This is a Spanish quiz: A vulcanizadora is:

  1. A bar frequented by Vulcans in the Star Trek series
  2. A place where vultures congregate
  3. A place to get your tire repaired

If you chose “3” you are correct and you get the Spanish vocabulary prize of the week.                                                              

Maggie and I had a flat yesterday. Fortunately we discovered this when we were right outside the Vulcanizadora – modest as the workshop looked, we could see it was exactly what we needed.

The shop is run by José who is mute. Those who do not speak Spanish and have felt the frustration of being unable to communicate need to meet this guy. He made himself perfectly understood by means of sign language, jumping up and down, and drawing in the air.

He had the tire off the car in no time. He plunged it into a tank of water (to see where air bubbles would show) because where there are bubbles, there is also a problem. José got a pair of pliers and pulled out the culprit – a skinny little nail.

He turned to salute the Virgin of Guadalupe image on the wall. I interpreted this as a little prayer of thanks to her for helping him locate the problem…

He then pried, turned, hauled on and spun the tire to get it off the rim. He patched the little hole … plunged the tire back in the water to be sure there were no more bubbles (problems) Satisfied that the tire was now in excellent shape, he put it back on the car.

Time elapsed: 20 minutes                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Price: 70 pesos

Number of smiles exchanged: muchos

Client satisfaction: 100%

People like José are who you meet when you patronize Mérida’s local establishments.


Have a look at today’s post on my son’s blog:

Carlos, who lives in Norway, went with a fellow Mexican student  to the Mexican

students’ in Paris rally in support of the #yo soy 132 movement. His opinion is

interesting and common to most of the young people I’ve had the opportunity to speak



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The Young People

I am honored that Elena Poniatowska has given me permission to translate and print an article she wrote for the Mexico City newspaper “La Jornada.”

You may or may not know that Elena Poniatowska is Mexico’s premier writer and journalist. She has won countless national and international awards but she claims her greatest joy is her family. On her 80th birthday she was asked if she would keep writing, “Oh yes, I have to…” she said,” I want to dedicate a book to each of my grandchildren!”

 Elena is the author of “Massacre in Mexico”, the chronicle that gave voice to the victims of the 1968 tragedy at Tlatelolco. She loves Mexico and says that the spontaneous student movement, begun on May 11,th  has filled her with new hope and energy.

 She wrote this article: “The Young People” for all the #Yo soy 132 supporters – those who are young and those who are young at heart.

 ¡Viva México!



One Sunday, fifty years ago, I went to Los Remedios with my son Mane and the engraver Alberto Beltran. We had to climb over a small hill and I could see that for 5 year old Mane, this required a great effort. I stretched out my hand. “Leave him alone, he has to learn to do it on his own,” said Alberto Beltran. At the time I worried that my son would fall. I didn’t get it then, but now I understand and I am thankful.

I am telling this little story because of the student movement that began on May 11th with  jeering, whistling and yelling aimed at the PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.

This movement has released the spirit of Mexican people, and for this very reason, it is important that we not take advantage of the young people. They must not be used, and what they had the ability to start – all on their own, without help from any political party or figurehead, must not be taken away from them.

The #Yo soy 132 movement has already won some victories:

  • They have been heard throughout the country and no one has shut them down.
  • They have forced the national television stations to comply with Article 62 of the Federal Radio & Television laws and commit to broadcasting the second presidential debate.
  • The students have obliged the Secretariat of State and Immigration to remove the barricades that impeded public access.
  • They have demanded that Televisa and TV Azteca answer their questions.
  • Their actions caused Enrique Peña Nieto to declare that he will not speak at any more universities.
  • The students have asked for political charges to be leveled against Calderon, Peña Nieto and Elba Ester Gordillo.
  • But perhaps in the long run, their greatest achievement will have been to unite the private and public university students.

Working class guys from the public high schools and stylish girls from exclusive Ibero are all # 132.

The young people have put our election in the world’s eyes. Now we are seen as more than news about the drug wars. The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc. are all watching Mexico’s youth.

The letter written by the Rector of the Ibero, José Morales Orozco, stipulates that he will protect his students because they are free, intelligent beings.

At conferences I am commonly asked about the differences between the young people of 1968 and those of today. I perpetually answer that youth is always the same. Now they have shown that this is true.

Today’s students, like those of ’68 are willing to stand up for Mexico, and they don’t need anyone to tell them how to do so.

PS: I am doubly pleased to print this article today because it is my 400th post. I did not plan it this way, it just happened… one of México’s lovely serendipitous surprises.


Filed under Guest Bloggers, Vida Latina, Writing

Yo soy # 132: What do they want?

Many are asking, “What does the ‘Yo soy # 132’ hope to achieve?”

The list is very lengthy, but if you have a close look at it, the demands are actually a petition for the implementation, proper functioning, monitoring and follow-up to resolutions for civil liberties that are already (supposedly) part of the Mexican Constitution and Charter of Rights.

The “Yo Soy #132” group also calls for the abolishment of common practices that allow the unfair advantage in the electoral process.

Finally “Yo Soy #132” proposes parameters for post-election safeguards to protect and improve health, education and other social services.

If you would like to read an English translation of the document, visit the Mexfiles site:

What are the Mexican people saying about the “Yo Soy #132?” In the central part of the country, they are energized and enthusiastic. Here in “the provinces” they are skeptical. They are not close enough to the stove to feel the heat. But I believe the young people will increase the fervor here too.

The bottom line? I believe that the “Yo Soy #132” movement is an important one but the direction it will continue to    take depends on many variables. The biggest threat to the student initiative is the infiltration by provocateurs. And here is where the general public can support the efforts of their youth. We can reject the obvious attempts to discredit or lay blame on the movement for negative actions that will be no doubt occur with frequency in this coming month.

There have already been and will be more accusations that the group promotes violence, coercion and political manipulation. This is simply not true. This is a spontaneous movement. It has not had time to mature; let us hope that truth will prevail and that los muchachos will foster some needed and lasting changes in the electoral process and in the honesty of Mexican political leadership.


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Yo Soy # 132

When the federal electoral campaign began, most political analysts did not consider that Mexican youth would be major contenders in the upcoming presidential election. For the most part they believed that the kids were apathetic and apolitical…they would sit by and accept, with little grumbling, the results at the polls. But a growing protest movement — dubbed “Yo Soy # 132” — has flushed that opinion straight down the loo.

This past month students began protesting against the Establishment   (there’s a dusted-off term for you…) The main target is the Mexican media and their biased coverage of this election. The PRI candidate, Peña Nieto, is their choice for president.

On May 11th  an uncounted number of  students jeered at Peña Nieto when he addressed them at the Ibero University in Mexico City.  The Media tried to diminish the importance of their protest by reporting that there were only 131 students involved. There were many more than that… and so the students started to furiously spread the word:  “I am # 132” The slogan appeared on T shirts, banners, placards… Then a group of them made a You Tube video clip that went viral.

In such a short time, just 20 days, the whole momentum of the federal election campaign has shifted. That Peña Nieto will win is no longer a given. How could public opinion swing so quickly? Could it be that the citizens have never been convinced that the PRI candidate is “the Second Coming?” Now that another faction is making its views known – and very loudly – the rank and file citizens are stirring out of their own indifference.

The majority of Mexican families work extremely hard to keep their heads above water, and they have been cowered into submission. Theirs is an indifference born out of frustration, out of fear, out of experience with former regimes that dealt very harshly with opposition. Yet several thousand scruffy students are showing the country that protest is still alive and well. La Raza, the sleeping giant has been woken up from a long, long siesta.         

All the former protests come to mind, especially Tlatelolco, where students were mowed down by government troops. The older generation is understandably concerned that this bitter cup of poison could be forced on them again. But no, I don’t think so.

In 1968 there was no internet, cell phones belonged in Dick Tracey comic books, instant relaying of information via Twitter and Facbook? Nah… impossible! In 2012, everyone has access to this and more. Thanks to technology, there will be no unreported beating and carting away of the students.

The older generation of Mexicans needs to remember: THIS IS OUR WATCH… we have a responsibility to support our young, and when the hoopla dies down, we have to see they do not to get sucked into the system, as happened in 1968.

Some international residents may be feeling nervous. Don’t be. This is a good thing…. It’s been so long in coming, and no matter what the outcome on July 1st, our country will be stronger because of  “Yo soy # 132.”

¡Viva México!

Images: All images have come from Google.


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The Cute Factor

This is what I saw in my pool this morning

A few years ago I watched a PBS documentary that talked about the “cute factor.” This is apparently one of Mother Nature’s wonders… The presenters claimed that all baby animals are born “cute” This is to say they have large eyes, innocent expressions, cuddly bodies… this is genetically programmed so that the mothers and others will be attracted to the defenseless infant and will take care of it.

The little guy needed a rescue

I certainly saw an example of this today. Look at what I found in my pool this morning. It is a baby opossum. The adult version is not even a bit cute… but this? Who could hurt it? I got the pool net, scooped Junior up, and sent him on his way.

I hope he knows the path home…

The Great Escape


Have you read Mexfiles today?
Very interesting… a must read…


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Living in Mexico: Food for thought

“What do the Mexicans think of us?”

Recently, members of Merida’s international community have asked me this question with more frequency… I have debated back and forth whether I should post on the topic. After all, I have written about it before…  But for those who have missed some earlier articles, this is my take:

In any city of the world, when a minority is small, the locals have no opinion either way, but when that number increases, they start to notice things… There are now A LOT of new internationals living in and around Merida. One figure I heard recently was 20,000 in the city of Merida alone (this number includes all foreign residents – not just English speakers)

To generalize the opinion of ALL Mexicans is impossible, but those I know like “los gringos” – this is what they call all    Caucasian foreigners (no matter where they come from: USA, Canada, Europe, Australia – wherever) they use different terms for people who have other racial characteristics: (blacks: los negritos… orientals: los chinitos and so on)

I used to bristle at these monikers but I know they are not meant to be derogatory. After all, the nicknames that Mexican people call one another by (very openly) are quite expletive: Flaco: someone who is thin, Gordo: someone who is fat, Chula: a pretty young woman, Guapo: a handsome young man etc… It is part of the culture to be “descriptive.”

Nonetheless, the Mexicans I know do have criticisms of the international residents.

  1. Not speaking Spanish: It is seen as a lack of respect when new residents don’t bother to learn at least minimal Spanish – enough to be polite and ask basic questions is all that’s expected. This is not hard to do
  2. Because new residents fail to catch on to the social nuances, they often make mistakes. For example, not greeting everyone as you come into a room is considered to be very rude.  Speaking English loudly amongst Spanish speakers is also not looked on as being polite. Watch how locals behave, you’ll catch on.
  3. Failing to patronize local businesses: Of course there are items you need to buy at the big stores but neighborhood merchants desperately need your business. You’d create a lot of goodwill by purchasing eggs, basic cleaning or hardware supplies, some fruits and veggies, snack items, soft drinks, beer and so on from them.
  4. Unfriendliness: Newcomers are expected to make the first move. This can be a smile, a nod – whatever. I got to know my neighbors with what I call “cookie diplomacy.” Sometimes when I baked, I would pass some of it out around the neighborhood … I know one Santiago resident who endeared himself to the elderly ladies who live on his street by bringing a chair outside “to enjoy the fresh air”, as he saw they did every evening. Eventually, they asked him to join them.
  5. Insensitivity: Mexicans have a perception that some people come to live here and embrace all the advantages of the place, but fail to become part of it. One person I know is very critical of a foreigner who came to town, inconvenienced her terribly while renovating an old house next door to hers, over an eight month period… then turned around and sold the place to people who renovated still more.
  6. Tipping: In Mexico, tips are expected. Right or wrong, service workers depend on them. 15% is the standard amount in a restaurant. Other people: car parkers, grocery store baggers, gas station attendants, garbage pick-up workers, gas and water delivery people etc., etc., all appreciate a gratuity for their attentions. Ten pesos is standard.
  7. The Help: Those who work for you, even very part-time, must also be treated well. They really appreciate a meal and frequent drinks while working (water, a Coke), and if you can’t provide this, you should give them something to take home.  They also are grateful when you offer them clothing and household items you are no longer using.

One other unfortunate thing happens. Mexicans read about how they are portrayed in the foreign press and they sometimes assume that the internationals living here share the opinions. It’s important to let them know you are not of that negative perception. If you were, why would you be here?

Having said all this, I must say that my friends also recognize, and are very appreciative of the community efforts made by the international residents. For example, the spaying and neutering campaign was really seen as a valuable contribution.

So what’s the bottom line? I believe it is: R-E-S-P-E-C-T… if you show this, and consideration for others, you’ll get it back in spades.


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